This guest blog post appeared on Nutrition Consultant, Mike Nguyen's blog on December 26th, 2016. Alas! The year is coming to a close! Can you believe it? Now is the time to reflect on and celebrate the year past. But for many the weight of the holidays and all its festivities are a true challenge in keeping balanced both physically and mentally as we charge through to December 31st. EMOTIONAL well being, meaning the well being of spirit, can also be challenged. Especially in these most recent months of more social and political tensions, I’m seeing and hearing the vast majority of us longing for some sort of timeout from society’s happenings. It’s true and it’s real. We are a nation in transition; the world is going through it as well.
So how do we maintain the balance of mind, body, and spirit when in every soundwave, every corner there lies some sort of commotion happening? How do we sit with our position in these events?
How do we manage our stress, better yet, move through stress with a time out from life? Nature, of course! It’s the one thing that grounds us, the one thing we are made of, and the one thing you can guarantee is there for you WHENEVER you need it.
And for those over achievers out there, I’m not talking about a trip to the beach or some epic Redwood Forest hike, although if those things are close to you, I say go there! We ALL should be able to find nature no matter where we are. Impossible you say? Let me illustrate for you how I coach during walks in nature whether wild or urban.
When we go outside say, “for some fresh air”, there’s more to that statement than the physical intake of less contaminated, indoor oxygen. Breathing outside in nature does something to your body, therefore something in your mind triggers an ancient memory. Outside is where we come from. The elements outside are also found in our bodies. Think about it. Earth (our body), Air (oxygen we breathe), Water (in our cells), and Fire (adrenaline, or the passion in our hearts). All of these elements that exist in us, exist outside. So when I start a hike with my clients we always acknowledge these elements FIRST. Then, we ask those elements FOR PERMISSION to heal us from whatever it is we need healing or balancing around. I’ve done this with clients on a forested trail and I’ve done this sitting in front of Lake Merritt with a lot of people walking by. This can be an everyday stress management practice for you. This can be your meditation.
This simple practice of acknowledgment and asking for permission is an intentional way to feed your inner soul. Just like when you would mindfully choose your meals because you want to make healthier choices in nutrition intake, acknowledgment of the natural elements around you when you are outside and asking for permission for balancing are the synonymous actions of intention setting. And when we walk through life with more intention, magical shifts begin to happen.
Back in October I started a series of monthly healing hikes in San Francisco called, Vicarious Trauma Healing Hikes. This hike invited service professionals working directly with clients experiencing trauma. The work is stressful. The work takes work to stay balanced. I know from previous career experience, vicarious trauma can house those dangerous levels of stress that impact everyone. So, I worked with my spiritual teacher to create a walk in meditation and healing for these professionals so they can cleanse themselves of stress-related symptoms and go back to work in full capacity to sustain their service. In this intentional process, we ritualized our presence by acknowledging the elements and asked Nature to accept the stress energies we would be releasing to her that day. The processing of trauma proved to be transformative for all of our participants.
“The Sunset Healing hike gave me permission to focus on my self-care needs and gave me the courage to continue my self care practice with no apologies.” — Lyslynn Lacoste, Director, BMAGIC in SF
I also started weekly healing hikes in Oakland. Since then, hikers say they are feeling much lighter at the end of our walk; there’s healing happening. Jessica Sanchez, a Program Manager for Grassroots Ecology in Palo Alto says the facilitation is, “…using and reclaiming nature to honor and replenish our spirits on these wonderful healing hikes…..I feel free to be myself and explore who I am.”
Reclaiming. That’s that ancient memory I mentioned earlier when we breathe in fresh air. Reclaiming Nature is a part of our identity and that’s important when we need to feed the soul. When we go back to these ancient memories we are healed the same way our ancestors were healed and guided through life. And when we feel some sort of reconnection to our spaces, we know that our souls are being fed. I invite you to join me on a healing hike someday and engage in this radical act of self care alongside your daily routine of healthy living. Mindful walking and mindful eating go hand-in-hand with a holistic approach to a better life. To find out when and where the next healing hike will be, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and my website.